If you’ve ever been to a wedding, you’ve heard the familiar words of Genesis 2:24: “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Dr. Dan Allender says that 90% of the issues couples face in marriage can be traced back to a failure to leave on the part of one or both partners.
Failure to leave?
For a married couple to be able to “cleave” (stick together) and “become one” (be united together in a common purpose and desire), the individuals have to learn how to “leave” (no longer be dependent on their parents).
We think of leaving as moving to a new address. But the idea the Bible is expressing is something that goes far deeper. In fact, in Bible times, it was common for a new husband and wife to establish their new home somewhere on the property owned by the grooms father. When Jesus made the statement that in His Father’s house there are many dwelling places, He was reflecting the common pattern of His day. Sons brought their new brides back to the family dwelling place, and the new couple lived as part of the extended family (think about how the book of Genesis describes Jacob and his sons all living together).
So the idea of leaving father and mother was about something more significant than where you lived.
The command to leave in Genesis 2:24 is a command to shift allegiances and loyalties. It’s a command to prioritize the husband/wife relationship above all other relationships, including our blood ties to our parents. It’s a command to no longer be dependent on our parents – financially or emotionally.
That doesn’t mean we can no longer have a healthy and close relationship with our parents. And it doesn’t mean that we no longer need to honor our parents. The fifth commandment doesn’t have an expiration date.
But problems will occur in a marriage when our allegiance to our parents is stronger than our allegiance to our spouse. Or when we care more about their approval than we do about pleasing one another in marriage. I’ve even seen marriage relationships that are threatened by one spouse whose actions and choices are influenced by parental expectations they feel long after a parent has passed on.
More than anyone else, our parents shape and influence our lives in our formative years. It’s no wonder that their influence would follow us during our lifetime. But in marriage, we have to consciously and purposefully decide to prioritize our marriage relationship ahead of that influence.
Implicit in the command for a man to leave his father and mother is a command for parents to let their sons and daughters leave. It can be a hard shift for parents to move from the responsibilities of care and correction and influence in our children’s lives to a new place where those responsibilities are no longer ours. But if we want our children’s marriages to succeed, we have to learn how to no longer attempt to influence their lives as we once did.
It’s interesting that the command relating to marriage in Genesis 2:24 is given in the context of Adam and Eve being joined together by God in marriage. The first couple did not have a father or mother to leave. Clearly, the command there is given as a transcendent pattern for marriage for future generations.
And you may have wondered about the fact that Genesis 2:24 calls on the man to leave his father and mother, but doesn’t say anything about the woman doing the same thing. The context clearly has two genders in view, but only the man is commanded to leave. What are we to make of that?
The answer is found elsewhere in scripture. Psalm 45 is a royal wedding Psalm, where the bride is declaring her love and devotion for her husband to be (who in this case is also the King of Israel). The psalm is filled with messianic overtones. It foreshadows the coming wedding of the bride of Christ with our King.
In the psalm, the bride declares her intent to leave her father and mother in being united to her new husband. And she calls on all other brides to do the same:
Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father’s house (Psalm 45:10)
Every married couple can benefit from asking themselves this question, individually and as a couple: In what ways do I still depend (consciously or unconsciously) on the approval or support of my parents? Are there any areas in our marriage where I am prioritizing my relationship with my parents ahead of my relationship with my spouse?
Before we can become one in marriage, we have to make sure we’ve taken the first step. We have to make sure we’ve unplugged from any kind of ongoing dependence on our parents.
I’m told about three dozen of you were on hand last night for the women’s ministry dinner event. Sounds like a fun time was had by all.
As you heard if you were there, the fall women’s Bible study will start on Monday night, October 1 and will run through November. You’ll be going through Jen Wilkin’s study on the Sermon on the Mount (Full disclosure here: I may try to sneak in and audit the class. I’m a big Jen Wilkin fan). You’ll need a workbook, so we’ll need to know if you’re planning to attend so we can order one for you. You’ll be able to sign up beginning this Sunday.
Also, there are plans for a women’s “Stay-treat” this year, the last weekend in September. Again, more details on all this very soon. Just wanted to give you a heads up here.
Redeemer Small Groups are starting up again soon (like the week after next!). Which group will you be part of this fall?
Feel free to “shop around” for a few weeks if you’d like. The groups and their leaders are ready to welcome shoppers (with no obligation to come back a second time)!
And speaking of small groups, we’re kicking off the fall by having groups pitch in to help with this upcoming event. Look for an email from your small group leader arriving very soon with details on how your group will be involved.
Once again, here is the full (corrected) fall calendar for you to download, print or file away for later use:
And a bunch of you have already signed up for the Art of Parenting small group that will be taking place this fall. Here are the details.
Who gets to live in God’s house? The Psalmist asks and answers that question in Psalm 15. And we’ll conclude our summer Psalm series Sunday(say that fast three times!).
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!